War Talks Series VI – Autumn 2019

War Talks Series

Last week, I published my first blog in three months, promising to give details of the sixth season of my War Talks programme in early August. I hadn’t expected to be able to deliver it any earlier than that, but thanks to the generosity of the speakers I can at least give an outline (see below).  The titles and dates may be amended subsequently, but I wanted to share what had been confirmed at the earliest eventuality. Before I deliver the good news, I’d like to reiterate the point of these Talks: The War Talks series, founded in July 2017, is designed to provide informal professional military education for Defence personnel, both to complement formal education in the profession of arms and to enhance soldier education, which I believe to be insufficient for purpose.  The Talks also have a secondary purpose of advertising the work and capabilities of the historic Prince Consort’s Library in Aldershot, the home of the War Talks, to which we have returned full-time after discussions at HQ Army.

From September onwards, all of our Talks will be available by podcast through both The Wavell Room and Facebook Live. Our first speaker in the new Series will be Dr Pippa Malmgren , a former Presidential Advisor to George W. Bush, advisor to the British government, founder of the DPRM Group and co-founder of H Robotics. Dr Malmgren will speak about the future use of drones and artificial intelligence in war. A couple of weeks later, our second speaker will be Vanya Eftimova Bellinger .  Vanya is an Assistant Professor of Strategy at the United States Air Force University in Alabama and was formerly a Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College.  She will be talking about her acclaimed and award-winning book on Marie von Clausewitz, as well as her recent research on Scharnhorst and the Prussian Army reforms of the early nineteenth century.

October’s first speaker will be Professor Patrick Porter of the University of Birmingham. Professor Porter will speak on the subject of his excellent book on Britain’s role in the campaign in Iraq from 2003 – 2009 which is one of the seven shortlisted books for the British Army Military Book of the Year 2019 (BAMBY19).  Professor Porter is followed by an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), Natia Seskuria.  Natia serves in the Defence Ministry of the Republic of Georgia and is a Lecturer in Russian Government and Policy at the University of Georgia.  Her knowledge of Russian ‘Information Warfare’ in Georgia since the war of 2008 is encyclopaedic and it is on this subject that she will address the War Talks audience.

After we turn the clocks back, our first Talk in November will be given by Professor Anthony King of the University of Warwick.  Professor King has worked with the British Army for many years and has written several seminal works on the experience of the British soldier and latterly on command in the twenty-first century.  It is upon this complex question that he will speak to us on Bonfire Night.  At the end of November, we are fortunate to have Dr Daniel Whittingham of the University of Birmingham as our speaker. Dan is a local man, having been born and brought up in Aldershot, but he is also one of the foremost thinkers on Counter-Insurgency in the United Kingdom. He will speak on the subject of the recent history of this type of warfare and its future direction of travel. Dan will return in the New Year to launch his book on Major General Charles Callwell and his book on Small Wars.

We have two special events in December, the first will be our Christmas Lecture. We are still in negotiation with our speaker for this event, but I will give further details a little closer to the time.  In addition, we have the Prizegiving event for the BAMBY19 which will hopefully see the winner talking about their award-winning book.  In total since July 2017 we will have had 49 Talks on wide ranging topics, which I hope will have encouraged soldiers to explore the available educational opportunities provided by the Army.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Barney

20190726-War Talks – Sixth Season (Sep - Dec 2019).

Spring into Summer!

This morning, I received a ‘phone call from Mons Barracks regarding the delivery of some parcels addressed to me, probably victims of the vagaries of MoDNet.  Anyway, it acted as a useful reminder that it has been over twelve months since I left the Scots Guards and almost five months since I left RUSI, on a full-time basis at least.  The last few months have flown. I must admit the move to Andover in March was not the smoothest, I rather resisted it I’m afraid, and this put me into the doldrums, a lull from which I am only just emerging.  I am also aware that I have rather neglected this blog, I hope that over the next few weeks I’ll be able to put that right.  This blog post will be largely reflective, but I promise to come back with something a little more interesting with my next posts.

My last review was at the end of March 2019, and a huge amount has happened since then. The biggest event was undoubtedly the opportunity to speak at the FINABEL Annual Conference in Malta. FINABEL is an alliance of European Union militaries, the purpose of which is to enhance military interoperability across Europe.  It was a fascinating meeting held over three days in a beautiful hotel overlooking the Grand Harbour in Valletta.  The culmination of the event, for me at least, was my address to the Chiefs of Staff of the member armies or their senior representatives. Although I have spoken to important groups before, speaking to the most senior soldiers in Europe was an incredible and unforgettable honour. I am surprised and honoured by every invitation to speak, and although not on the same scale, I was also pleased to speak to the Adjutant General’s Corps Warrant Officers’ and Senior NCOs’ Conference at the end of May.  My next speaking engagement is at the 9th Annual Social Media in the Defence and Military Sector Conference in November, I hope to meet some of you there.

Besides speaking, I was also pleased to act as a historical advisor to the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC) Battlefield Study to Normandy in May, it was a fascinating trip during which I enjoyed seeing young soldiers open up to the conceptual component. It convinced me, even more, that intellectual study of the profession of arms is not just Officer sport.  I have been booked on six battlefield studies over the next year already, four to the Western Front battlefields of the First World War before Christmas, and two to more exotic places in 2020.  The first will be with the AGC to the Balkans in the Spring, the second will be to South Africa in the Summer, or is that Winter.  The Battlefield Studies allow me to teach, that is a real passion but one which is sadly severely limited.  Another area which has been restricted of late has been my passion for writing.  Some of you may have read my chapter on the Western Way of War in RUSI’s ‘The Future Operating Environment Out to 2030’ published last month, unfortunately I have only written two pieces since then, an article on the critical vulnerability of space-enabled precision warfare with the wonderful Alexandra Stickings, and a book review on Mark Galleoti’s book, ‘Russian Political Warfare’. I am determined to re-balance this with a fistful of articles and papers before Christmas.

Another area which has been highly successful, but which I owe some more time to, has been the War Talks series and the British Army Military Book of the Year Prize 2019 (BAMBY19). The Fifth Season, an all-female affair, has pulled in larger audiences thanks to podcasts in conjunction with the Wavell Room; our last, until September, will be given by Cristina Varriale of RUSI tomorrow night at Prince Consort’s Library. The Sixth Season’s itinerary is, as yet, incomplete, but I am hoping to announce it during August.  The BAMBY continues apace, it is hoped to announce the winner of the Prize by October. I have also been glad to assist the organisers of the Navy’s new Quarterdeck Talks, if only in a small way, I wish them luck in their endeavours and commend their Talks to you. A recurrent feature of this blog has been the limited capacity I have had since moving to Army Communications, I assure you that normal service will be resumed very shortly.

I have purposely left unaddressed any discussion of the future. The reason is that I am not quite sure of the direction in which I am travelling.  I know that I want to do more reading and speaking, and I really want to start a PhD as soon as possible but that is counter-balanced by a need to earn money and to pursue the cause for which I have been speaking since 2014, better education and wider career opportunities for Other Ranks. Undoubtedly, I will return to these subjects in the next few weeks.

Thank you for listening, speak soon.

Barney